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What Is a Swiss Roll?

A numbers of bakeries in regions of the world from Hong Kong and India to Indonesia and the US prepare Swiss rolls.
Lemon curd, which is sometimes used to fill Swiss rolls.
A jelly roll pan, which is used to make Swiss rolls.
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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2014
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A Swiss roll is a baked dessert that essentially consists of a light sponge cake topped with a filling and then rolled up into a log shape. While many different types of sponge cakes can be used, the cake needs to be fairly light and pliable enough to roll without breaking. Just about anything with a spreadable consistency can be used as the filling for this cake, though seedless jelly, lemon curd, chocolate paste, and buttercream frosting are all commonly used. A Swiss roll is a common treat served during English tea and can be fairly easy and quick to prepare.

Despite the name “Swiss roll,” this dessert is likely British in origin and does not stem from any type of Swiss tradition or cuisine. Due to its popularity in the UK, this treat also spread throughout much of the world that was at one time a part of the British Empire. A numbers of bakeries in regions of the world from Hong Kong and India to Indonesia and the US prepare Swiss rolls. The popularity of the Swiss roll in Hong Kong and Chinese baking is so great that they are prepared and sold by many bakeries in American “Chinatowns.”

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A Swiss roll typically begins with the sponge cake that is prepared and baked. While different recipes call for different ingredients, a simple sponge cake can be made using only eggs, self-rising flour, and sugar. Some recipes call for the eggs and sugar to be combined and beaten until light and frothy, with sufficient body to form ribbons when pulled away from the bowl in which they are mixed. Other recipes call for the eggs to be prepared separately, and this can provide increased lightness when the egg whites are beaten by themselves.

Regardless of what recipe is used in preparing a Swiss roll, the pan on which the sponge cake is baked must be sufficiently greased and lined with parchment to ensure the cake can easily release from the pan after baking. Different fillings can be used to make a Swiss roll, though traditional filling consists of lemon curd or seedless fruit jelly. Other fillings can include buttercream frosting, which can be flavored with various extracts or vanilla, chocolate spread, and whipped cream and fresh fruit. A Swiss roll can also be made using cocoa powder in the sponge cake itself, resulting in a cake that is brown in color and tastes of chocolate.

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julies
Post 12

I know they are not very nutritious, but every once in awhile I get a craving for a Little Debbie Swiss roll.

There is something about that soft chocolate and cream filling that just melts in your mouth. Eating one of them is never enough, and so I always have more than one! These were one of my favorite snacks when I was a kid.

Anytime I took needed to take a sack lunch for something, I always hoped my mom would put in some Little Debbie Swiss rolls.

It's probably a good thing she didn't buy them very often because any time she did, they never lasted very long around our house.

golf07
Post 11

One of my favorite things about Swiss rolls is that although they are sweet, they are a light dessert. I always like something sweet at the end of meal, but don't usually want a very heavy or rich dessert.

One of my favorite recipes for a Swiss roll calls for raspberry jam for the filling. Since I love the taste of raspberry in just about anything, this is my favorite filling for Swiss rolls.

If I am making these for company or to take somewhere I will used seedless jam for the filling. If I am making them for myself to enjoy, I don't mind the filling having raspberry seeds in it.

Domido
Post 10

@snickerish – I’ve made this recipe a million times, but I had no idea that it was a kind of swiss cake roll recipe!

I know. I know. Where have I been, and how did I not realize that was what I was doing?

I guess I just always thought of swiss rolls as those delicious chocolate concoctions that go straight to the hips – and thighs – and tummy.

I always make a pumpkin roll at Halloween, then again at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I actually grow and harvest my own pumpkins. Once they are ripe, I pick them.

Then, I split them down the middle and bake them for about fifteen or twenty minutes. This makes scraping out the seeds and pumpkin meat a whole bunch easier.

Then, if you’re like me and you want to make several pies and rolls over a period of time, you can freeze the pumpkin for later use.

It’s cheaper than buying canned pumpkin every time you want to make a roll, and it’s not all that much of an inconvenience. Plus, my kids just love to help!

dimpley
Post 9

I absolutely love swiss roll cakes, but I’ve honestly never had one that wasn’t prepackaged.

I suppose it’s one of those things, kind of like oatmeal cakes, that you don’t really think of making, but buying at a gas station on a road trip for a snack.

We were practically raised on the things, with my older sister and I splitting a twin pack every morning before school. That and a soda; we were very nutritious, obviously.

I still love them, though, and every once in a while I’ll splurge on one. They are so scrumptious that I don’t share my twin packs anymore. Nope, both of those little babies are mine!

snickerish
Post 8

My ultimate Swiss roll recipe is seasonal recipe but it is a "must try"!

It is made from my favorite fall flavor - pumpkin! This Swiss cake roll is basically a thin pumpkin spice cake rolled onto itself with cream cheese icing. I highly suggest it to bring another flavor to the Thanksgiving dessert table.

I have seen recipes online and can definitely vouch for the end product but I cannot vouch for any particular recipe as I have found that here in North Carolina I am lucky enough to have grocery stores that bake it and sell it!

I can only imagine what a homemade pumpkin Swiss roll cake would taste like!

Speechie
Post 7

I have fond memories of eating the Swiss cake rolls from the grocery store when I was a kid. My favorite way of eating it was to eat the outer chocolate coating as it would flake off piece by piece easily and then I would cut little pieces so I could see the fun swirly design.

A fun activity for kids is a simple recipe for Swiss rolls that involves bread, peanut butter, and jelly. So as you can tell it is not a true Swiss roll but what you do by putting on the jelly and then the peanut butter onto a slice of bread is creating a perfect sticky consistency to roll the bread into a Swiss cake roll wannabe.

Yummy and easy to do!

Oceana
Post 6

My friend makes her own Swiss rolls. I have never been brave enough to try, because her recipe calls for beating the egg whites separately. I have never been able to separate the whites from the yolks. I am not that coordinated. However, she told me a trick so simple that possibly even I could do it.

She told me to crack open an egg and pour it through a funnel into a measuring cup. They yolk is too big to fit through a small funnel, so that way, you can separate it from the white part.

I aim to attempt it one day. For now, I will just keep enjoying her Swiss rolls. She fills them with a Boston cream pie flavored filling, and they are so amazing. She drizzles chocolate across the tops of the rolls, and just that little hint of chocolate adds so much to the roll.

StarJo
Post 5

I do quite a bit of baking, but I have never attempted a Swiss roll. Having to make cake the perfect consistency for spreading and rolling intimidates me. It sounds like it would be really hard to get just right.

I do love the taste of Swiss rolls, though. A café down the street from my office makes some very delicious ones. They make yellow cake and fill it with a strawberry paste that is perfectly creamy without being runny.

I asked the waitress how they make the paste. She told me that all they do is blend some frozen strawberries with a small amount of unrefined sugar. Sometimes the simplest things are the best!

Perdido
Post 4

I love Swiss cake rolls filled with raspberry jam. The sweet, light cake goes so well with the tart, flavorful fruit jam.

I often make these rolls for parties. Since people tend to sample several foods and not eat a lot of any one thing, I slice the rolls into half-inch discs. They look like cake cookies, and people love them.

I like to make both chocolate Swiss rolls and the common yellow cake Swiss rolls. The chocolate ones taste just as good filled with raspberry jam as the yellow ones do, and most people end up sampling both kinds.

wavy58
Post 3

I have never had a homemade Swiss roll. I have only tried the kind you can buy at a grocery store. Since even the prepackaged ones are awesome, I can only imagine how good one made from scratch would be.

I particularly love the kind made of chocolate sponge cake with a hard chocolate shell and filled with white cream. Those are so satisfying, both to fill my stomach and to calm my strong craving for something ultra chocolatey.

I like to eat this kind of Swiss roll with maraschino cherries on the side. I would put them on the top, but they would just roll off before I could catch them in my mouth.

Sara007
Post 2

Swiss rolls can be one of the funnest cakes to make because so much of what you do with it is really up to your imagination. My kids have put Nutella in Swiss rolls, peanut butter and jelly, you name it they have tried it.

For myself I really love arranging the spread so that different colors appear when you roll it. I find a bit of food coloring can really make a simple Swiss roll a lot more fun.

Also, if you want to try and make a Swiss roll don't be afraid to add things like chocolate chips or small candies. Pretty much anything goes.

manykitties2
Post 1

Swiss rolls have to be one of the most delicious and fun snacks you can eat. I remember when I was a kid my mom would serve us a slice of Swiss roll for dessert and I used to get a kick out of unrolling it and eating it piece by piece.

Nowadays I still go through the same unrolling process but I like to think I am a bit more subtle about it when I am with others. I suppose I still remember getting scolded for playing with my food when I was little.

A good idea if you want to have even more fun unrolling the Swiss roll is to buy a variety that has hidden fruit in it. Good times.

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